A MelanieM Review: My Cowboy Promises (The Cowboys #4) by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A real man needs a real love…

My Cowboy Promises coverTo become the man he’s meant to be, one cowboy will have to be the man he never wanted anyone to know he was…

Ryder Dent is a true-blue cowboy. A devoted son, husband and father, but one who is living a costly lie. When they were both young, Ryder and his closest female friend Andy thought they’d found the perfect solution to both their problems—she was single and pregnant, and he was secretly gay—so they got married and raised Jonas together.

When Ryder gets hurt at a party, his son’s new pediatrician comes to the rescue. The connection between Ryder and Dr. Declan Winters is sudden, powerful, and undeniable. Ryder loves Andy and the family they’ve created together—but they both need more. Can they pursue their hearts’ desire without destroying the life they’ve built and losing the son they love?

I have come to love Z. A.. Maxfield’s Cowboy series, each story provides such an interesting group of characters and couples all loosely intwined.   And most are having to deal with issues of acceptance…of their themselves, sexuality, and their ability to love.  My Cowboy Promises, the 4th in the Cowboy series,  connection’s to the previous story is that the ranch that Tripp Triplehorn and Lucho Reyes went to work on is owned by a powerful, controlling rancher Sterling Chandler, father to Andrea, wife of Ryder Dent and mother to their son.  But as usual in a ZAM story, what you see on the surface is illusion, the reality and truth lies somewhere underneath for them all.

What an awful, stressful situation the readers get dumped into.  Ryder Dent saw his life’s (and father’s expectations) explode when, as a teenager getting ready to go to college, instead marries his best friend in high school, a girl pregnant with a rodeo star’s baby.  That the rodeo star wants nothing to do with either Andrea or the baby goes without question as she’s underage.  Instead Andrea turns to her best friend to save her and they marry to the dismay/disgust/condemnation of their parents and community. But these kids are hiding an even bigger secret…Ryder is gay and Andrea knew the truth before they got married.

Now its five years later, and while both love Jonas, their son, neither Ryder or Andrea is particularly happy.  Maxfield is able to let us intimately into Ryder and Andrea’s lives, see the stress and exhaustion both young people are going through as well as the continuing condemnation of parents and community they continue to live with.  All that while still trying to lead lives of courage and stability for their growing son.  It’s just feels all so real.  Ryder at 23 is just realizing the extent of his sacrifice. He’s lonely, he’s working at his father’s store shouldering all the responsibilities and duties but none of the recognition and gratitude one would hope for from his disapproving parent.  He shares a bed (platonically) with Andrea in the small house bought for them by her wealthy father who never lets them forget that fact or how much he despises his daughter’s choices.  Andrea too is beginning to hate their lifestyle. She’s always been a bit wild and talented and wants to sing as a career, something her father would never allow.  The only bright spot in their lives?  Jonas a boy everyone loves deeply.  But as Ryder is not his real father, that too becomes an intense source of pain and stress, especially now that the difference in their eye colors is being remarked on in town.

I think reading this story, delving into the lives of Ryder and Andrea, most of us will recognize the gritty authenticity of lives lived with the “quiet desperation” that Z. A. Maxfield presents us with here.  Dead-end jobs, disapproving parents, pressure to conform to small town values and expectations, along with any potential way out of their situation feeling almost impossible.  That theme has been a reliable source for books, songs and movies for ages and it always works because that scenario resonates with those listening, reading or watching it unfold.  And mostly because there is a part of us, all of us, somewhere inside those characters at one point in our lives.   How I understood these people and cared about them from page 1.

The status quo of their lives, already shaky, shatters completely when the town doctor retires and a new GP moves into his practice and house.  That would be Dr. Declan Winters, who has his own demons to exercise and naivete when it comes to small town pressure and disapproval.  Declan was a little more of a stretch for me.  I found it a little unrealistic, at first, that given he had met with the older town doctor, been filled in on the town’s prejudices and still thought the doctor was overstating the situation.  But maybe that’s because I am so familiar with small town life, something that “big city” folk  might find charming on the exterior until reality intrudes.  Perhaps Declan is not such a stretch after all.

Through dialog and scenes Maxfield brings this increasingly rocky situation to life.  We have a gay new doctor in town, one who is quick to recognize the attraction that Ryder feels towards him, an attraction that confounds him when he has to treat Ryder and find out the cause of the wound is an accident by Ryder’s son.  We understand it when he believes Ryder is straight, why not?  Everyone else does.  Then there is poor Ryder,dealing with his “gayness” for real for the first time in his life when he can’t get the good doctor out of his mind or nightly dreams.  It’s a situation where hurt feelings, expectation, and miscommunication abound.  Then throw in an unhappy wife, a son with questions and it gets downright explosive.  What a manner in which to examine your sexuality, come of age and come out as the person you truly are.  That’s the fight in front of Ryder for most of the story.

I think some readers will get a little frustrated with Ryder’s inability to “grow some spine” as his and Andrea’s father exclaim. But remember his age, the time and place of his youth.  He’s respectful and one accustomed to shouldering responsibilities for everything that comes his way. And he’s  young.  I found him to be the most real character here.  I understood him and his background supports beautifully his actions throughout the story.  Great job, ZAM.

There will be places you will need to bring out the tissues and other scemes as hot as the Texas sun.  Did I love this story?  You betcha!  In fact, I love the entire series and highly recommend them all.  But My Cowboy Promises?  This might be my favorite story yet of the series.  Grab it up today and decide for yourself.

Cover art by ?.  I* like the cover, in fact I like all the covers for this series, from the design to the color scheme.

Sales Links:    Penguin Publishing  –  All Romance (ARe)  –  Amazon     Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: June 16th 2015 by InterMix
ISBN139780698175037
edition languageEnglish
url http://zamaxfield.com/the-cowboys/
seriesThe Cowboys #4

The Cowboy Series Include:

A MelanieM Review: My Cowboy Homecoming (The Cowboys #3) by Z.A. Maxfield

Aside

Rating:   4 stars out of 5

Love can heal the deepest wounds…

My Homecoming CowboyThe death of a brother and a father in prison bring a soldier home.  Sgt. Calvin Tripplehorn had every intention of making the army his career and never returning home.   But duty and obligation calls when he  receives notice that his brother has died, leaving his mother unable to cope.  However, returning home brings up all the old problems and issues that sent Tripp into the Army in the first place.

Tripp hates returning to his New Mexican home, a place where the name Tripplehorn means hate, pain, and general ill will, mostly due to his crazy father who burned people’s homes and businesses to the ground and destroyed lives all around him. It doesn’t help that one of the people who picks him up at the airport is gorgeous and flirty…that is until Tripp’s last name is mentioned.

Cowboy Lucho Reyes is returning to work at the J-Bar Ranch after an injury sent him to the town’s clinic.  On the way back they pick up a soldier returning home and Lucho thinks the gorgeous vet is everything he has been looking for.  Until he hears the soldier’s name.  Tripplehorn.  The family of drug dealing bigots who burned his family’s restaurant to the ground causing the death of the his grandfather.  He hates the Tripplehorns, they are nothing but trouble.  But there’s something different about Calvin.

In need of employment, Tripp is hired at the J-Bar Ranch, a dream he had as a child and now the home of a man Tripp finds irresistable, if only Lucho will give him a chance to prove he’s not his father’s son.

My Cowboy Homecoming is the third book in Z. A. Maxfield’s The Cowboys series.  And while it was the first I have read of the three books published, My Cowboy Homecoming was so endearing and enjoyable that it will send me back to read the first two stories to see what I have missed.

Having started here at the third book, I liked that I didn’t feel that I was lacking anything as far as background or information.  Z. A. Maxfield nicely filled in all the important details from the  previous stories and series foundation, so I was able to read and delve into the plot as it unfolded without feeling there were gaps missing in everyone’s back history.

There is so much to love here starting with the J-Bar Ranch itself, owned and operated by a gay couple, Speed Malloy and Crispin Carrasco, and another gay pairing, Jimmy Rafferty and Eddie as ranch hands.  It’s truly a different sort of place, complete with three-legged dogs and rescue horses in need of therapy and retraining.   That’s where Lucho’s injury comes in, while trying to help a newly arrived abused horse.  Element upon delightful element is added to help add dimension and realism to a story that has go much heart and pain packed into it.

The beginning is simple enough. A soldier arrives home after leaving the service so he can help out his family. But what follows is anything but simple.

Tripp is arriving home to see his mother, his brother has died, his father in prison and there is no one at the airport to welcome him or pick him up.  Immediately the atmosphere changes into something dark. He’s picked up by two ranch hands from the J-Bar as a favor but what starts off as a welcome helping hand turns bitter as soon as Tripp’s name is revealed.  From then on out, Z.A. Maxfield’s cowboy drama rolls out a series of past abuses and terrors delivered by the Tripplehorn men (Tripp excluded) upon the community.

It’s a horrific little journey into everyone’s past, including Lucho’s, and we start to see two different perspective on Tripp’s family and the dynamics that caused Tripp to flee into the Army.  Maxfield doesn’t dump all the pain and angst on the reader at once, instead it is doled out, the facts and emotions building up to a painful picture of an abusive, racist father who did his best to control his brood and wife and is still trying to do so from his prison  cell.

Tripp’s mother is a character most if not all readers will love to hate.  Her weakness is frustrating, her actions lamentable, and her inability to act on her own behalf or her son’s removes most of the compassion a reader is inclined to award her.  Men are her backbone and she has found another support system in her husband’s sleazy lawyer.  I think most of the reader’s frustration will stem from Tripp’s actions towards his mother.  A war seasoned veteran who turns so passive and ineffectual when it comes to interacting with his past and his mother.  This section of the story could easily turn off the reader if the author had not done such a great job in laying the foundation for this mother/son dynamic and using it for further actions down the road.  Great job all around.

The highlight of this story, of course, is the hot, sexy and actually sweet romance that springs up between Lucho and Tripp.  It’s one tough road to romance for both men, and the joy and heart of this story is watching them fall into love and work hard to make their relationship work.  It will involve Lucho’s family, one abused horse, and the support of those around them at the J-Bar Ranch.  Maxfield brought the characters from the previous stories (Malloy and Crispin, Jimmy and Eddie) into My Homecoming Cowboy so I am hopeful that any future stories will bring us up to date on Lucho and Tripp’ relationship.  Plus I want to know if Crispin succeeds in bringing ostriches onto the ranch!

Did I love this story?  You betcha!  Tripp and Lucho were so easy to take to heart and from the small interactions I saw between the other characters were enough to make me want to know their stories as well.

If you love your cowboys and romance, this is the story for you.  It’s probably even the series for you.   It has drama, angst, romance and animals whose characters are as quirky and endearing as the people they live with!  It’s one of my recommended reads!

Cover artist did a great job.  I love this cover.

Sales Links:  All Romance (ARe)         Amazon             Buy It here

Book Details:

ebook, InterMix eBook, 272 pages
Published December 2014 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
ISBN139780698175020
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Cowboys #3